As a first gen Aussie, there’s no questions that I’m as balanda (non-Indigenous) as they come. With purely European blood running through my veins, my Australian identity is established though my absurd slang and classless ability to swear in all inappropriate situations.
Journeying to the Top End to attend Garma Festival was the most challenging and spiritual adventure of my life. I mean, can you believe that the dirt is actually red up there? It’s like, not even a joke…
Garma Festival takes place in East Arnhem Land, the country of the Yolngu people, and being there is like being in another world. The people there speak Yolngu Matha, and their values, traditions, mannerisms and the way they live day-to-day life are completely different to how I live mine in Sydney.
I felt I was a foreigner in my own country, a feeling that many Indigenous Australians must experience every day. Every moment of my seven-day adventure was spent taking in body language, and learning how to shut up and listen, to respect the elders of the country and to remember that I am a visitor to that country. It was exhausting, yet humbling.
I also did some seriously cool stuff while I was there, as the Yolngu aunties took me and many other women under their wing. I took part in a dawn wailing ceremony, and a healing ceremony where I got nude (basically) and washed by five women with special oily leaves. I was healed and clean for the first time all trip (srsly… that dirt man).
My journey was life changing (cliché AF) and it was cool to experience the culture of the First People of this beautiful country. It has challenged me to become more educated about the true history of Aboriginal people and inspired me to continue working towards a future that sees Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture respected, languages learned and people seen as equal.
Wanna be like me?
You don’t need to go to a remote community to have an “authentic” Aboriginal experience. There is a rich and vibrant culture living right on your doorstep. With the majority of Indigenous Australians living in Western Sydney, here’s a list of things for you to check out.